We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus … There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.
I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging, the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an 8 vo. [octavo, a book 8-10” tall] of 46. pages of pure and unsophisticated doctrines, such as were professed and acted on by the unlettered apostles, the Apostolic fathers, and the Christians of the 1st. century.
To John Adams, October 13, 1813
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Discerning leaders know what’s important and what’s not.
Jefferson wrote a lengthy letter to his old friend, mostly an analysis of the Old and New Testaments. He took issue with portions of them but never with the words of Jesus. He thought Jesus, the man, was the greatest moral teacher who ever lived. Jefferson had no patience with those he felt had padded or added on to the prophet’s simple teaching. He wanted to reduce that voluminous work to its simplest basis.
With a razor blade and glue, he cut from the New Testament the words of Jesus and the empirical history of his lifetime found in the four Gospels and arranged them in one chronological account. He even created his own version of what would be called a “parallel Bible” today, with each verse rendered side-by-side in English, French, Latin and Greek. He called it “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” Later generations have dubbed it the “Jefferson Bible.” The Smithsonian Institute has recently refurbished the original work.
This project was for Jefferson’s personal and private use. He shared a copy with one or two trusted friends and the idea with several more, like Adams. Except for these few, its existence in Jefferson’s lifetime was unknown.
“Your interpretation of Jefferson was inspiring
and was very appropriate for our audience of leaders …”
Executive Director, Missouri School Boards Association
Mr. Jefferson will inspire your leaders when you invite him to speak!
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739